AM recently had the opportunity to go visit Polly Morgan in her East London studio. We anticipated what we might see. Tales of Polly’s ‘chamber of horrors’ from friends who had visited previously sounded intriguing and exciting, and this promised to be a very different studio visit experience for us.
Polly is a member of the Guild of Taxidermists, and has been working as an artist since 2005, since which she has shown work via Banksy at the ’05 Santa’s Ghetto, at the currently hibernating Zoo Art Fair, Lazarides Gallery, White Cube, Damien Hirst’s Other Criteria and most recently at Haunch of Venison in London for her enthralling Psychopomps solo show.
Read on for more of our guided tour of the studio after the jump.
The Bethnal Green studio is located in a warehouse block, and upon entering the space, it instantly becomes apparent that one could easily spend hours taking a proper look around.
We were immediately made to feel welcome by Polly, her assistants and also her dogs; particularly Trotsky the affable Staffordshire bull terrier.
The entrance area houses the fridges and freezers where Polly’s incoming collection of the recently deceased are housed and preserved. All of the incoming animals and birds come from sources found by Polly where the animals have died of natural causes, and each incoming specimen is logged in on the blackboard above the freezers. Sort of a macabre shopping list.
Ephemera, bell jars, pots of glue, paint and all kinds of other fluids adorn cupboards and shelving units throughout the lobby area. Experimental pieces from Polly’s early years are all kept for prosperity along with a superb collection of art on the walls as gifts from fellow artists.
Each bird is skinned – and the fresher the animal, the easier this process is – an incision is made along the chest and the skin is peeled away, complete with feathers intact. The bones are disconnected from the head and then the skin is pulled away from the body. Any remnants of flesh, fat, blood and gore are removed whilst the brains are also removed from the hollow skull.
The main elements of the body are discarded and a perfect bound replica is formed from either straw or hemp – or a combination of the two – around a wire frame. Eventually the head and outer skin is connected to the new body and then the assembly is stitched back together.
The main part of the studio housed surprisingly little active ‘taxidermy’. Small amounts of work are in progress at any one time due to the nature of the work, but it was no where near the mess of feather, blood and bone we expected it might have been, which helped as it was around lunchtime when we stopped by and we thought that the AM iron constitution was going to be put to the test! This studio visit was a completely unique experience for us, and we wish we could have stayed to look around for much longer as there were so many exciting things to discover throughout Polly’s space. Hopefully our pictures present enough of our discoveries for you to enjoy the tour also.